The selection, care and feeding of a co-founder (or co-founders) is one of the key determinants of long-term success in a startup. Lots of startups have issues like a lack of market, technology challenges, distribution challenges, etc. But, a lot of these can be addressed with a great founding team (just about all startups tweak their model in order to address challenges along the way). But, if you have the wrong co-founders (or none at all), that's a hard problem to get over.
7 Insights On the Co-Founder Conundrum
1. Dispel the delusion that you don't need a co-founder. You do. You may have all the requisite skills, but even then, co-founders help spread the work and make better decisions. Sure, you can talk to your brilliant self, but that's not as effective.
2. Make sure at least one of the founders can build the product. This is so you don't have to try and outsource the development. Killer apps that delight users and conquer markets are not built by outsourcing. You could also hire your lead developer, but then you need to be *really* good at finding and recruiting this kind of talent. This is hard.
3. Make sure at least one of you can sell. Sure, you can bootstrap and it's not about the money and you want to build something people want, and you're going to be acquired by Google some day, and Google doesn't care about revenues. But, most startups (particularly yours) is going to need to sell something to someone someday. And, by accident, you might someday acquire a taste for something other than Ramen noodles.
4. It helps to have known your co-founder a bit before you start a venture. Unless you're the swashbuckling, risk-taking type that proposes marriage to someone on a train ride to Paris while you're on a 2 week vacation despite there being no alcohol involved, chances are, you don't want to start a company with someone that you haven't spent some time with before.
5. You better like them. If things don't go well (and in the early stages, they don't), you're probably going to spend more time with your co-founders than you do with your significant other. If things do go well, you're going to spend a *lot* more time.
6. Ask all the hard, important questions as early as possible. These include questions about committment, equity, compensation, goals and exits. Here's an article on the topic: Questions You Should Ask Your Co-Founders.
7. Remember that many real great potential co-founders are *already* running their own startups. Be open to creative ways to joining forces with these folks.
So, which insights and ideas do you have on picking co-founders? Are you one of those rare individuals that has succeeded in doing it all alone? Would love to read your experiences and thoughts in the comments.